Social Control of Health Behaviors

A Comparison of Young, Middle-Aged, and Older Adults

Published in: Journal of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences, v. 59, no. 4, July 2004, p. P147-P150

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2004

by Joan S. Tucker, David J. Klein, Marc N. Elliott

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Social control can positively influence health behaviors, but changes in social networks over time may cause older adults to experience less health-related social control. The size and composition of social control networks, and receipt of health-related social control, were examined in a probability sample of 509 household residents (aged 25-80 years) in Los Angeles County who completed a telephone survey. Compared with younger and middle-aged adults, older adults identified fewer people who attempted to influence their health behaviors and fewer health behaviors that others urged them to change. Older adults also reported less frequent social control attempts aimed at modifying their health behaviors, even after health status, health habits, and social network characteristics were controlled for. Possible explanations for these age-related differences are discussed.

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